Astronomy Essentials

Jupiter at opposition September 26, 2022, closest in 70 years

Jupiter in October.
The bright “star” ascending in the east at nightfall is really a planet, the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. This planet’s opposition – when Earth flew between Jupiter and the sun – was on September 26. A dark sky reveals the bright planet directly south of the Great Square of the constellation Pegasus. Between the Great Square and bright planet is a pretty, but faint group of 6 stars known as the Circlet in the constellation Pisces. Chart via John Jardine Goss/ EarthSky.

Earth flew between the sun and Jupiter – bringing Jupiter to its yearly opposition – on September 26. At this 2022 opposition, the giant planet was closer than in 70 years!

Jupiter in 2022: Maybe you’ve noticed Jupiter. It’s been the very bright object ascending in the east throughout each evening. Brighter than all the stars!
Opposition on September 26 brought Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky. It happened as Earth flew between the sun and Jupiter.
Closest to Earth on September 26 at 3.953 astronomical units (AU) or 367 million miles or 591 million km or 33 light minutes from Earth.
Opposition constellation: Pisces the Fishes.
Brightness at opposition: Magnitude -2.9.
Size at opposition (as best seen through a telescope): 50 arcseconds across.
Through binoculars (anytime): Jupiter reveals a bright disk. If you look closely, you’ll see the Galilean satellites appearing as pinpoints of light, arrayed in a line that bisects the giant planet.
Why is Jupiter especially close in 2022? Jupiter isn’t always exactly closest to Earth on the day of its opposition. But in 2022, Jupiter’s opposition to the sun and closest approach to Earth fell on the same day. That’s because opposition took place so near in time to Jupiter’s perihelion – on January 21, 2023 – its closest point to the sun in its 12-year orbit. If it’s nearly closest to the sun, and we go between it and the sun … voilà, it’s a close opposition for us! The juxtaposition of Jupiter’s opposition in late 2022, and perihelion in early 2023, brought the planet closer to Earth at this opposition than it has been for 70 years. And Jupiter was extra-bright in our sky on the day of opposition. Still, Jupiter is always very bright! It’s always brighter than all the stars.

Diagram showing Earth between an outer planet and the sun.
Opposition happens when Earth flies between an outer planet, like Saturn, and the sun. Illustration via Chris Peat/ Heavens-Above.

For precise sun and Jupiter rising times at your location:

Old Farmer’s Almanac (U.S. and Canada) (worldwide).

Stellarium (online planetarium program)

How often does Jupiter reach opposition?

As a matter of fact, Jupiter comes to opposition roughly every 13 months. That is how long Earth takes to travel once around the sun relative to Jupiter. So – according to our earthly calendars – Jupiter’s opposition comes about a month later each year. What’s more there are 12 constellations of the zodiac. And there are 12 months in a year. So Jupiter is in a new zodiacal constellation each year (last year, Capricornus; this year, Pisces).

2022 Jupiter opposition – September 26.
2023 Jupiter opposition – November 2.
2024 Jupiter opposition – December 7.
2026 Jupiter opposition – January 10.

@adlerplanet #Jupiter is in #opposition on 9/26, so get your stargazing eyes ready for this celestial event, it might be one of the best views of Jupiter you will ever see! #AdlerPlanetarium #Astronomy #SpaceFacts #Chicago ? original sound – Adler Planetarium

Jupiter events in 2022 and early 2023

July 28, 2022: Jupiter begins retrograde motion
September 26, 2022: Jupiter at opposition
November 23, 2022: Jupiter ends retrograde motion
Jan 20, 2023: Jupiter at perihelion
February 22, 2023: Lunar occultation of Jupiter
April 11, 2023: Jupiter at solar conjunction
May 17, 2023: Lunar occultation of Jupiter

Jupiter with swirly banded atmosphere and oval storms, with text annotations.
Jupiter and its stormy atmosphere as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope on September 4, 2021. Image via Amy Simon (NASA-GSFC)/ Michael H. Wong (UC Berkeley)/ Hubblesite.

A failed star

Another key point is that Jupiter isn’t a rocky planet like Earth. It’s more like a failed star, not massive enough or hot enough inside to spark thermonuclear fusion reactions, but some 2 1/2 times more massive than all the other planets in our solar system combined. So for Jupiter to shine as stars do, you’d need some 80 Jupiter’s – rolled into a ball – to be hot enough inside to spark thermonuclear reactions.

Naturally, Jupiter isn’t a star. In fact, it doesn’t shine with its own light, but by reflected sunlight. Yet on a September 2022 night – as bright Jupiter rises more or less opposite the sun – you can imagine standing on Earth and seeing Jupiter in our sky, if the giant planet did have enough mass to shine as stars do. If that were so, around Jupiter’s opposition, we’d have no night at all!

Animation showing Earth moving around and around the sun faster than Jupiter.
In fact, Jupiter (red) completes one orbit of the sun (center) for every 11.86 orbits of the Earth (blue), since our orbit is smaller, and we move faster! Animation via Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0.

Bottom line: Earth flew between the sun and Jupiter on September 26. At this 2022 opposition, Jupiter was closer than it’s been in 70 years!

Read more: How to see Jupiter’s moons

Read more: Jupiter: Closest to the sun January 20, 2023

September 28, 2022
Astronomy Essentials

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